Archive | February 2016

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty

Richard closed the door behind him with a click.   He raked Tristan over with a critical eye, taking in her casually dressed appearance and bare feet. “My my, don’t you look right at home.”

Tristan placed the baby in the bassinet before facing the last person in the world she wanted to see at that moment.  “Since you didn’t answer the first time I’ll ask again, what do you want Richard?” She had known something like this was coming, especially after she had failed to return his calls the past couple of days.  But she never would have guessed he would have made a house call, he was typically more careful than that.

“I haven’t heard an update from you in a few weeks, thought I would check in and make sure you were still up to the task.” Richard prowled around the living room with a critical eye.  You could tell a lot about a person from the way they decorated their home, and he could see Marah in every nook and cranny.  From the brightly colored throw pillows to the art on the walls.  Sure there were touches of Tony here and there, such as the gigantic big screen TV, but for the most part this room was Marah Santos all the way.  “I’ve known you a lost time Tristan, and I have never seen you take this long securing your mark before.”

“Do you want it fast or do you want it thorough?

“Honestly?  I would be fine with you taking your time.  If I didn’t suspect you were going weak on me.”  Richard continued his prowl around the room until he was inches from Tristan.  Leaning in he got right in her face, “I know about your date with the degenerate.  Couldn’t aim a little higher on the Springfield social hierarchy?”

Tristan barely managed to control her temper.  She knew that’s what Richard wanted, a reaction.  So instead she just tilted her head and smirked, “You never said I couldn’t have my own fun.

Richard eyed her shrewdly, searching for any sign of deception.  Detecting nothing he nodded briefly, “Very well.  Have your fun while it lasts.”  Richard walked towards the front door but before he opened it he turned and faced Tristan and pinned her with a look that made his meaning clear, “But you best keep your eyes on the prize.  I don’t think I have to remind you of what you stand to lose if you don’t”

And on that parting note he opened the door and closed it behind him.  Tristan let out the breath she had been holding.  “Eyes on the prize” she mumbled to herself.  The road to her freedom was paved with bad intentions.  She squatted down next to the bassinet and looked at the baby, sleeping peacefully.  Unaware of the unique brand of evil that had just inhabited her space, “Better buckle up Lanie, things are about to get bumpy.”

***

Rafael watched the black BMW drive away from the curb.  He had lived in Springfield long enough to recognize the majority of the citizens.  And this one was unfamiliar.

Call it a gut feeling but he didn’t like it.  Not one bit.  From his pocket he drew out his cellphone and dialed familiar numbers. When all he got was Tony’s voicemail he cursed and then left his message. “Tony this is Rafael.  I think there is something going on.  Call me.”

No reason to raise the alarm until he knew what was going on.

***

Tony took another glance at his watch and sighed.  Throwing the magazine he had been staring at for the past half hour on the coffee table he stood and yelled towards the stairs, “Come on Marah, it’s your family! They aren’t going to care what you look like.”

Tony could hear Marah’s indistinct mumbling from where he stood.  She was probably calling him every foul-mouthed name under the sun.  Leaning down he smiled at Lanie who returned a gummy smile in return.  “Do you hear how your mommy talks to me?  Don’t think just because you have me wrapped around your finger that you can do the same.”

After their abbreviated lunch today he had called Reva and informed her of the news.  Well both bits of news really.  The fact that Carlos was going to be spending the majority of his miserable life breathing prison air and that he had told Marah about the incident that caused her to lose her memory.  Reva had been uncharacteristically silent on the line before she declared that they were going to celebrate as a family.  Up until now they had generally followed doctor’s orders.  They didn’t try to lead Marah’s recovery by telling her what she should remember, but Tony had never been great at following orders.   And he’s glad he did.  Telling Marah had knocked down some of the last remaining wall between them.  Now if only he could grow enough courage to tell her about Eden…

“Okay I’m ready! What do you think?” Marah twirled in a small circle and showed off her dress.

Tony had been so lost in his musings that he hadn’t heard Marah’s approach.  But now he stood, struck stupid by the sight before him.  The dark blue dress, her hair a riot of curls around her head.  She was breathtaking.  He knew Marah took his silence as a good sign because she just laughed and walked towards him.  Placing her fingertip under his jaw she closed his gaping mouth with a snap, “You will catch flies with your mouth opened like that.”

Tony shook his head of the cobwebs, “You look gorgeous.”  He put his hand in his pocket and his fingertip grazed the object he had carried with him for months now.  And watching as Marah checked on Lanie he figured this was the perfect moment.  They were finally in a good place.  The cracks in their relationship weren’t patched up completely, but they were healing.  And Marah had slowly been opening up to Lanie which was the most important step of them all.

“You know just saying it doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to happen.”

Tony shook his head in confusion, “Excuse me?”

“Daddy’s little princess?” Marah stood holding Lanie in her arms.  She indicated the pink onesie Lanie wore with a tilt of her head, “She could grow up to be a hellion for all we know.”

Tony laughed, “Without a doubt!  But I always liked a girl with moxie.  And I’m sure Lanie Santos will show the world a thing or two.” He reached forward and grabbed Lanie’s foot and gave it a loving tug that made the baby laugh and kick her legs in glee, “Except for boys because she’s not dating until she’s at least thirty.”  He grabbed the diaper bag he had packed earlier and slung it over his shoulder. “As for the onesie I have to display it loud and proud.  Chances are your mom will commandeer Lanie with the excuse of diaper change and she’ll come back with one that says ‘My Grandparents Rock my Socks’ or something like it.”

Marah laughed as she strapped Lanie into her pumpkin seat, “Yeah I could see my mom doing something like that.”

“Jonathan is even worse.  He got one specially made.  Says something like ‘I heart my Uncle Jonathan’, has a matching blanket too.” Before Marah could open the door Tony placed a halting hand on her arm.  Dropping the diaper bag to the floor he pulled his hand out of his pocket and nervously cleared his throat, “Marah I know I said I was going to hold onto this until things weren’t so up in the air between us but this  just feels right.  Taking her left hand in his Tony slid the blue solitaire on her finger where it belonged.

Marah looked down at the ring and it was her turn to gape with her mouth open.  It was beautiful. “Tony it’s gorgeous.”

Tony leaned forward and kissed Marah’s lips gently, “No. You are gorgeous.”  Placing another kiss on his wife’s lips Tony lifted the baby carrier with one arm and opened the door with his other hand, “Now let’s go celebrate.”

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A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Nineteen

Tony moved in to Marah’s personal space and rubbed her arm soothingly, “Marah maybe we should talk about this at home.”

Marah narrowed her eyes and Tony knew by the stubborn set of her jaw that his suggestion wasn’t happening any time soon.  She wrenched her arm free. “No.  I want to know now.”

He raised his hands and raked them through his hair.  This was the worst case scenario for Tony, but the cat was out of the bag so to speak.  Might as well come clean. “Fine! ” He gestured to the table Marah and Sam had been sitting at, “But let’s at least sit down.  Maybe not try to have the entire town in on our business.”

Marah pulled out her chair and sat with a huff, “I don’t care what this town thinks.  I never did.”

Yeah Tony knew that.  But she was one of Springfield’s native daughters from one of the upstanding families in town.  When they had begun dating the first time she had been the princess of Springfield, and he had been the bad-boy outsider.  It had taken years, and a lot of sacrifice from Danny, to remove the taint from the Santos name.  Tony tamped down the bitterness that threatened to surface.  He couldn’t fathom that Marah would have forgotten all of their history.  “Maybe not Marah.  But I do.”

***

“Knock knock.”

Danny looked up from going over paperwork to see Michelle standing in his doorway.  He threw the pen down and moved around the desk towards his wife, “Best sight I’ve seen all day.”

Michelle laughed as she handed over the white bag she carried, “Arroz con pollo as requested dear husband.”

Danny gave Michelle a smacking kiss, “You are too good to me you know that.”

“And don’t you forget it!”  Michelle closed the door and moved further into the office, “So where is Tony?  I peaked in to see if he wanted to join us but the light was off in his office.”

“He actually has a lunch date with Marah.” Danny sat behind his desk and opened the white paper bag.  The aromas alone wafting up from the takeout box made his mouth water. He looked up from the delicious delicacy his wife had brought him and noticed she hadn’t sat down with him.  “Aren’t you going to join me?  I just might have enough here for me to share.”

Michelle shook her head and smiled, “I already ate.”

“You should have told me that before I asked if you wanted to join me for lunch.”

Placing her hand on the shiny desk top Michelle leaned forward suggestively, “Maybe I just wanted to see your handsome face.”

Food be damned. Danny had another hunger that was much more pressing.  Moving the food to the floor he stood and bracketed Michelle hips in his hands, “Did you lock the door?”

Michelle reached up and began undoing the buttons on Danny’s shirt, “But of course.  Though Tony being called to his own lunch date worked perfectly into my wicked plans for you.”

Danny smiled lecherously as he pulled her in for a kiss, “So devious wife.”

“I learn from the best.”

***

Tony reached across the table and covered Marah’s hands in his. “Okay I don’t know what Sam told you.”

Marah moved her hands back and tucked them into her lap.  She wasn’t getting pulled into Tony’s vortex of smooth explanations before she got just that. An explanation. “Tell me about Carlos Riviera.”

Tony sighed deeply before leaning forward as to not be overheard by the still curious crowd at Company, “Carlos Riviera was a man Danny and I hired to supply wine for Infierno.  He came heavily vetted so we thought we were doing what was best for the club.” He leaned back as the waited brought their food then continued, “Turns out that he came to Springfield with a mission.”

After taking a bite of her burger Marah made a gesture for Tony to continue.

“Carlos Riviera is Catalina’s brother.”

Marah stopped mid-chew.  The burger in her mouth suddenly as appetizing as sawdust.  She took a sip of water to help her swallow. “Catalina?  As in Catalina Quesada?”  Marah’s stomach tightened in apprehension at what Tony was going to say.  Though she already knew it was going to be bad, hell she bore the scars to prove it.

“Yes Catalina.  Seems Carlos came to Springfield to enact his vengeance.”  Tony took a deep breath and continued, “He came to Springfield to take away everything I love because he thinks I was the reason his sister was dead.”  Tony hated saying the words aloud.  Because a part of him still felt guilty.  No he hadn’t killed Catalina but she never would have been at the mercy of Maria had he not been a stupid, reckless, idiot all those years ago.

Marah must have read the distress on his face because this time it was she who reached across the table and covered his hand in support, “You didn’t kill her Tony.”

Tony turned his hand over and laced their fingers together, “I might have.  She almost took your life that night, and a world without you Marah is no world at all.”

“You make my world a bit more interesting too.  Just so you know.”  Marah tightened her hand before releasing Tony’s, “So he tried to hurt you.”

“No Marah.  He wanted to destroy me.”  Tony pushed his plate aside.  Any appetite that he had when he arrived was completely gone, “And he almost succeeded.  That night still gives me nightmares.”

Marah wrapped her arms around herself, “Tell me.”

Tony shook his head, “Marah you don’t want to hear that.  It was a bad night, that’s all you need to know.”

Marah slapped her hand against the table making him jump, “You don’t get to tell me what I need to know Tony!  The man tried to kill me.  So just tell me!”

“Fine!” Tony leaned toward Marah, his teeth clenched tight, “Do you want to hear how I watched my wife lying limp on the floor with blood seeping out of her like a river?  I didn’t know if you were alive or dead.  It was a nightmare Marah.  A complete and utter nightmare.  The one thing that I am actually happy you can’t remember.”

Marah covered her mouth with her hand before again reaching across the table and holding Tony’s hand in hers. “Tony I had a dream about that night when I first got out of the hospital.  I had no idea who I was running from but I know I was scared.  Guess it wasn’t a dream but part of a memory.”

“Yeah well, I relieve that moment almost every night.  And every time you laugh.  Or when you scrunch up your face when you are watching a movie.”

Marah couldn’t believe she could laugh, not after listening to Tony recount that night in vivid detail. “I do not scrunch up my face!”

“Yes you do.” Tony chuckled, “When you are trying to figure out the plot your mouth does this scrunchy thing.  It’s kind of cute.”

“Yeah it sounds real adorable.” Marah was quiet as she thought about what Tony had told her.  About the co-called ‘accident’ that had changed their lives in ways they still weren’t sure of, “I guess he did take me from you though, didn’t he?  I’m not the same Marah.  I can feel it, like the wires are just not connected right.”

Tony smiled and wrapped both of her hands in his, “Marah you might have forgotten what we had together but as long as we both are alive there is nothing that can keep me from fighting for us.  So no he didn’t take you from me.  Nothing short of death could do that.”  He look at her quizzically before continuing, “As for you so-called’ wiring that you speak of, you are still Marah.  You could suddenly dress like a hippie and decide to grow our own food and you would still just be Marah to me.”

Marah smiled.  The fact that Tony wasn’t fazed by any of the changes her memory loss had caused was reassuring.  She knew he loved her, but his complete acceptance of her was…beautiful. “They threw the book at him right?”

“They sure did.”  He was lucky Tony wasn’t the same reckless ass he used to be.  Or he’d be six feet under now instead of breathing tax-payer provided air.

“Good.”  Marah took one more sip from her water, “How about we skip lunch and go over to Len’s? I could use some chocolate right now.”

Tony stood up and kissed the top of Marah’s head. “I aim to please.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Eighteen

Tony didn’t wait for an answer.  He marched right up to Sam and wrenched Marah away before moving her behind him.  “What Sam?  Couldn’t get a story the old-fashioned way so you decide to accost my wife in public?”

Sam held up his hands in a stopping motion, “Whoa there Tony. I think you have the wrong idea.  I was just-”

“Spare me your excuses.  What you were doing was plugging Marah for information.”  He pushed Sam back a step, “This how you treat your so-called ‘friends’? Using them to sell copies of that sad excuse for a newspaper you work for?  Classy man, just stay classy.” He turned to face his wife and felt like his heart was clenching in his chest.  Tears were streaming down her face while she nervously rubbed her hand over the area on her head where they had operated.  The scar was hidden, her hair growing out to cover where the incision had been made.  But sometimes he caught her rubbing the spot when she was nervous or when she was lost in the thoughts in her head.  At that moment Tony wasn’t sure which one it was, “Marah, are you okay?”

Marah looked up and took a calming breath.  It didn’t work, “No I don’t think I am.”

***

Tristan looked down at the baby in her arms and smiled.  Eyes closed Lanie sucked down the bottle with gusto, content in her place in the world.  If only everyone was that lucky.

Unlike the little one lying so contentedly in her arms Tristan had been born into a shitty ass situation made worse by shitty ass parents.  From the moment she was old enough to know better she knew her parents never wanted her.  She was a burden they endured for the income she brought in from the state.  Money she never saw a dime of.  Her parents, and that is a term best used loosely with those two, had spent it all on booze and drugs.   It wasn’t long before she was running cons and hustling tourists out of their money.  And she was damn good at it too.  Until she made the mistake of conning the wrong man…

She looked down and saw Lanie’s mouth had gone slack in sleep, milk bubbles forming at the edge of her lips.  Tristan held the baby up to her shoulder and patted her back softly.  “I got to say Lanie, I am a bit jealous.  Here you sleep in a carriage like a princess while I grew up sleeping on a mattress on the floor.”  The baby burped but continued to sleep peacefully.

A soft knock on the door had the dog running to the window to see who the newcomer was.  Before he could bark and wake the baby Tristan moved to the door only to see her past staring back at her.  “What do you want Richard?”

***

Tony reached his hands out intending to pull Marah to him but she took a step back.  Reluctantly Tony dropped his arms and sighed, “What did he say Marah?”

“You do know that he is standing right here?” Sam interjected.  Then he looked around Tony’s broad shoulders to face Marah, “I wasn’t trying to pump you for information.”  He paused then continued, “Okay so maybe the thought passed through my mind for a few seconds but that was it, only a few seconds before I knew I couldn’t do that to you.”

Tony whirled around and pinned Sam with an angry look, “Could you please shut up?  Better yet, get your ass out of here!  My wife and I have enough going on right now without you muddling in.”

Buzz Cooper walked up to them, a dishrag hung haphazardly over his shoulder.  “Hey! Take it outside.  This is a family place.”

Sam smiled placatingly, “I was just leaving Buzz.”  He once again addressed Marah, “Call me if you need to talk, or need a friend, whatever.”  He glanced at Tony before continuing, “Remember what I said the last time we saw each other?  I think that still stands.”  And with those parting words he walked out.

Marah was barely aware of Tony apologizing to Buzz for the commotion, she was too focused on what Sam had said.  She thought back to the day Sam was talking about, when he was heading off to journalism school.  When he visited her at the dorms.

“Oh, there was one story that I was right about.  The one about you and Tony.  The two of you aren’t done with each other.  There’s still some journey left for the two of you to make.  Together.”

Marah took a shuddering breath and placed a hand on Tony’s elbow.  He immediately stopped his conversation with Buzz and turned to face her.

“Tell me.”

Tony lifted an eyebrow in question but Marah just looked at him squarely in the face, “Tell me why someone would try to kill me.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Seventeen

After talking with her mother for most of the morning Marah felt like she knew more about her brothers than she knew about herself.  Seemed three of her brothers had made Lewis Construction a second generation family business.  Even Jonathan, who wasn’t even a true Lewis, worked for the company.   She never thought she would see the day when her father and Uncle Billy would pass the torch but it seemed they took to retirement like a ‘duck takes to water’.  Her mom’s words, not hers.

So now Marah sat at Company waiting for Tony to join her for lunch.  Marah worried her napkin through her fingers.  The invite had been spur of the moment and impulsive, two things Marah wasn’t exactly known for.  After her childhood she didn’t like surprises, and didn’t try to act without thinking things through.  In was a lesson she learned early on.

But yet here she was waiting for her husband to arrive.

“Well if it isn’t Marah Lewis.  Though I guess I should say Marah Santos.”

Marah turned her head and got a blast from the past.  She stood up and wrapped her arms around the newcomer. “Sam!  How have you been?”

Sam Spencer returned the hug enthusiastically, “I have been great.  Got engaged last year.”

Marah genuinely smiled at the news.  Lord knows her and Sam had their share of history.  History had included her teenaged self using Sam to forget Tony.  But she was happy for him, happy that he had found someone to love him as he deserved. “I am so happy for you. ” She gestured to the table, “You want to join me?”

“I got a few minutes to spare for an old friend.” Sam joined her at the table, his arm casually thrown across the back of the bench seats, “You sure Tony won’t mind us sitting together?”

Marah raised a brow quizzically, “Why would he?”

Sam snorted, “Please Marah, you have always been Tony’s trigger since the day you two entered each other’s orbits.  You may have forgotten but for six months I was the idiot who stupidly stepped in the middle of your crossfire.”

Marah reached forward and grasped his hand in hers, “You weren’t an idiot Sam.  Back then I was a teenager, completely selfish,”  She sat back and sipped her water, “But we’re not young kids anymore.”

“Touché.” Sam steepled his hands under his chin, “So tell me, how have you been holding up?  I ran into your mom the other day, she said that you are back at work.”

Marah took another sip of her water, “My mom has a big mouth.  But I am doing okay, doctor says he expects a full recovery.”

Sam nodded, “So you haven’t regained your memory back yet?” He smiled at her, “Though I am glad to see that you at least remember me.  Though I will say, I am pretty memorable.”

Marah laughed at Sam’s attempt at a joke, “Not yet, though like I said.  My doctor expects my memory to return eventually.”

“What do you think about Carlos Riviera getting charged?  My sources say that he is expected to receive the maximum sentence.”

Marah was confused at the turn of conversation, “Who is Carlos Riviera?”

Sam’s mouth opened in shock before he snapped it closed.  He tried again, “Carlos Riviera.  The man who attacked you.  He’s being charged,” Sam looked down and checked his watch, “Right about now in fact.”

***

Tony check his watch.  He was going to be a few minutes late meeting Marah for lunch.

When he woke up this morning he had no intention of coming here.  The man had plead guilty, this was just a formality.  But then he had been sitting at his desk an Infierno and he suddenly felt the need to see Carlos Riviera get the punishment he deserved.  Well, in his opinion the man deserved life.  But the justice system wasn’t always just.

The judge looked over the paperwork in her hands before facing the man wearing prison orange,  what would hopefully be the uniform for the majority of his miserable life.  “You understand that by pleading guilty you waive your right to a trial of a jury of your peers.”

Carlos stood stoic beside his public defender. “I do.”

“Reading over the testimony presented by the District Attorney my judgment is that you showed intent to cause serious bodily harm to one Marah Santos and her unborn fetus.  It is the decision of this court to sentence you to the maximum possible, fifteen years.”  She signed the papers in front of her before facing the man again, “Do you wish to address the court.”

“Nope.  They say actions speak a thousand words,”  He turned his head and locked eyes with Tony, “And I think I said it all.”

Tony stood and made his way towards the exit.  Fifteen years wasn’t life, there was always the chance that Carlos would intrude on their lives in the future.  But Tony left like a weight had been lifted.  The man was at least going to prison, for a long time.  He reached the large oak doors and stopped.  Turning around he walked towards the front of the courtroom, “Your honor I would like to say something.”

The older woman peered down from her bench, her glasses perched on the end of her nose. “And you are?”

“Tony Santos.  The husband of the victim.”

Mel Boudreau looked as if she wanted to stop him, but seeing the intent in his eyes she nodded slightly.  She knew he was going to say what he came to say one way or the other.

The judge gestured to the podium, “I’ll allow it.  Though keep in mind Mr. Santos, the sentence has already been passed down.  There will be no amending the outcome.”

“I understand.  I just have to say something, ”  Tony stood at the podium and faced Carlos,  The man had the look of someone who was bored, not someone who had just lost fifteen years of their future.  Tony was reminded of the cocky, arrogant, man he used to be.  This could have been him had he not had his family.  And Marah. “You think you won.  You think you stole something from me, from Marah, from our families but you didn’t.  We may be battered, we may be bruised, but we are something you will never be.  We are strong.  And when you wake up in a cell for the next decade of your life I will wake up and see the beautiful faces of my wife and child and know that we are the ones that won.”

And on that note Tony again walked towards the oak doors.  His steps lighter than they had been in months.  He had a lunch date with his wife.

***

Carlos Riviera face revealed nothing.  Not that he was worried about going to prison and not that he was moved by Tony’s impassioned speech.  It wasn’t until later, as he sat in his cell waiting to be transferred that he relived Tony’s statement.  A sly smile crossed his face. “You just wait Tony.  You haven’t won yet.”

***

Marah pushed herself back from the table and stood, “Attacked?  I was attacked!” She shook her head in denial, “No, everyone said it was an accident.”  Marah thought back to the past couple of months.  At everyone skirting around the topic when she brought it up.  At the pitying looks she got from those she met on the street.  The people she had known all her life.  “Why would anyone want to attack me?”

Sam stood and rested his hand gently on her arm, “I didn’t mean to upset you.  I thought you knew.”

“Well I didn’t!” Marah practically screeched.  She was aware that she was getting some curious looks from the other patrons around her but she didn’t care.

“What in the hell is going on here?”

Marah and Sam both turned to see a very angry Tony striding toward them.

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Sixteen

With a bounce in her step Marah descended the stairs with Toby following faithfully behind her.  For the first time in months Marah felt like the suffocating pressure to be “herself” wasn’t there.  Sure, everyone still wanted her memory to return, but that desperate look wasn’t in Tony’s eyes like it was last month, or last week, hell even the day before.  Marah actually felt hopeful, and that was a great feeling.

She went about monotonous tasks like making coffee and getting the paper.  She was just sitting down when a slight knock on the door had Toby wagging his tail in excitement. Marah shook her head, “Some watch dog you are.”

Pulling the door open slightly she was surprised to see an older Hispanic man standing there.  His face was weathered and Marah could tell he had seen things in his day, but his eyes were kind.  “Rafael Santiago I presume?”

The older man cocked his head and smiled broadly, “You remember me?”

Marah opened the door wider to allow him to enter.  “Not yet.  But Tony has told me all about you.  How you saved his life.”  She walked over to the coffee pot, “Would you like some coffee?”

“Please.” Rafael sat himself at the breakfast table and regarded Marah closely.  He knew she had a family who loved her but they had grown close since he arrived in Springfield.  Hell, he lived in their guest house.  And as unconventional as their arrangement may seem, he counted Marah as the daughter he and his beloved Maria never had.  “How are you feeling?”

Marah placed the coffee cup in front of him before returning to her own seat, “No real memory recall yet.  But we’re hopeful.”

“Is that coffee I smell?” Tony waltzed in with Lanie tucked close to his chest.

Rafael’s eyes lit up with delight. “It certainly is.” He held out his hands expectantly, “Now hand over my granddaughter.”

Marah laughed as Tony and Rafael traded verbal barbs in jest.  These two really were like father and son.  She rose from her seat to put her coffee cup in the dishwasher.  Walking over to Tony she placed a kiss on his cheek. “Have to go get ready for work.  Have a good day.”

Tony watched Marah as she walked out of the room.  He could tell something had changed between them last night and this morning was definitely a change.  It had been months since Marah gave affection without hesitation.

“Seems you two are at a good place.”

At Rafael’s statement Tony turned and faced the older man.  The man who was currently ticking Lanie and making goofy faces to make her smile.  “I think so.  Last night seemed to be what we needed.  She actually held Lanie.”

Rafael looked up from the baby in his arms and pinned Tony with that look of us, the one that said he saw between the lines and knew everything.  “That may be son but you are never going to be able to bridge the gap without telling her the whole story.”

***

Marah was sorting through the endless pile of deliveries that had arrived while she was in the hospital.  When she had first learned that she had walked away from her life in Paris she had been confused.  Fashion had always been her dream, to walk away from that seemed unfathomable.  But she could see why she chose interior design.  It allowed her to make something ordinary into something extraordinary.  To make things beautiful.

Her eyes landed on a brown package, smaller than the other.  Lifting it she saw it was addressed to ‘Marah Santos’ which she thought was odd.  Why would she be getting private mail delivered here.  She brought the package over to her desk and grabbed some scissors, ready to see what the box contained.  She was just about to tear into the thing when the door opened and  an arm shot through the opening, the hand holding a bakery bad with a hastily drawn smiley face on it. “I come in peace.”

Marah smiled at her mother’s antics. “Get in here mom.  You are letting cold air in! Oh my God, I am starting to sound like you.”

Reva smiled mischievously as she walked towards her daughter, “You may be a new mom but it just comes naturally.”

Marah fiddled with the scissors in her hand before placing them flat on her desk.  It was time to throw out the olive branch. “I am not mad mom.  About Collin.  About Jeffery.  Though I still think it is a bit icky that the man who saw me naked knocked boots with my mom.” Marah shook her head as if she could shake the mental image from her head.  There wasn’t enough mind bleach in the world to rid her off that. “But it was just a shock.  A brother no one ever mentioned.” Marah felt the tears begin to fill her eyes, what else had her family kept from her?

“Oh sweetie,” She came around the desk and gathered Marah into a tight hug, ” We were just doing what that damn quack said was best.  To not overload you too soon.”

Marah wiped the tears from her eyes.  Grabbing the bakery bag she peered inside before looking back up at her mother. “How about we indulge in a little carbfest while you tell me about my brothers.  And seriously, you couldn’t have had a girl?  Now I’m outnumbered four to one”

***

Ed knocked briskly on Dr. Salas’ office door.  He didn’t particularly like the man.  He was rude, had terrible bedside manner, and after that incident with Michelle he wasn’t too hip on him in the personal sense either.  But the man was brilliant in his field and Cedars was lucky to have him.  “Come in.”

Ed entered the office and closed the door behind him.  Sitting in one of the chairs placed in front of the desk he didn’t waste time on small talk and pleasantries, “I am going to get straight to the point.  It has come to my attention that you have ordered two MRIs for Carmen Santos in the past week.  Do you mind telling me why you ordered expensive tests on a woman who had been in a coma for over a decade?”

Dr. Salas tapped his pen against the blotter on his desk, “I was under the impression that when I joined the staff here I was in charge of the Neurology department.”

“This is true.  But-”

Richard Salas didn’t wait for Ed to finish, “I strive to give the best medical care to all of my patients.  And Ms. Santos is one of my patients whether she is awake or in a coma.”

Ed stood, “Next time you want to run expensive tests on patients comatose for over ten years you need to run it by me first.  You may be head of the Neurology department but I am still Chief of Staff.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Fifteen

A Soft Place to Land will feature some flashback memories as Marah recovers.  Some are from previous stories and some are brand new that happened “off canvas”. 

Marah dabbed at the residual tears that kept leaking from her eyes, “I can’t believe that is my favorite movie.  Why would I torture myself with that tear-jerker.”

Tony laughed softly, “Well if I had to guess I would say it reminds you of us.”

“Us?” Marah raised an eyebrow in question, “How so?”

Tony reached forward and grabbed the glasses of wine of the coffee table, handing one to Marah he sipped his own, “A good girl from  a good family.  A boy from the wrong side of the tracks.  A love that neither time nor space can keep apart.  I can see the similarities.”

Taking a sip out of her own wineglass Marah had to admit to herself that Tony had a point.  Noah and Ally’s love was one for the ages.  “Are you going to love me when I’m old and grey and can’t remember that you that leave your socks on the floor?”

“I can’t imagine a time in my life not loving you Marah.  I’ll go to my grave loving you.”  At his statement the room was suddenly full of tension.  But unlike the previous weeks of tension between them, this one was more than welcome.  This tension let Tony know that Marah was feeling the pull that always had existed between them.  After a brief moment of hesitation he leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers.  And he felt it flare even brighter.  That spark that never went away.

Moving back he watched as she slowly opened her eyes.  And in those eyes he saw something akin to shock.  But he also saw something deeper.  Call it need or want, but it was there.  Marah had felt the kiss just as much as he did.  Before Marah could rebuild the wall she had built between them Tony placed his wineglass on the coffee table and stood.  “I am going to go check on Lanie.”

***

Marah sat in stunned silence as Tony went up the stairs towards the nursery.  Once he was out of sight she let out the breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding.  “Oh…wow.” She placed her hand against her mouth as if she could still feel Tony’s lips against hers.

They had danced around each other for months, her and Tony.   But tonight had felt…different.  It reminded her of years before, when they had lived in the museum.  When their relationship was easy for a change.  Before everything imploded on them.  But some things never change and her body’s reaction to Tony Santos was one of them.  She could still feel the electric charge of that single chaste kiss.

She looked up towards where Tony had disappeared.  If she could drop her walls with Tony perhaps she could try with her own child.

***

“How can something so foul come out of something so beautiful,” Tony teased as he cleaned up Lanie’s diaper.  He had spent months before Lanie was born preparing for the basics.  The practice baby Michelle recommended for first time fathers was a breeze compared to a live squirming newborn. “You just keep kicking little one, I am still going to get this diaper on you.”

He never would have seen this coming.  Tony Santos, member of the former Santos crime family, was talking to a baby.  He rubbed a gentle hand along the dark hairs covering Lanie’s head.  Oh well, he liked it.  “Guess what Laners.  I kissed mommy today.”  The baby’s response was to continue kicking her legs with gusto, which Tony took as their daughter’s way of telling him to continue.  He finished dressing Lanie in her sleeper and walked over to the rocking chair in the corner, “I did.  And I know she felt the same thing I did.  Just maybe we haven’t screwed up everything for you kiddo.”

Tony gently set the rocker into motion, “I know, I know.  I need to tell her all of it.  Why she can’t remember us, how she almost died.” Holding the baby closer to his chest Tony sighed, “But tonight was a good night.  A nice place to start.  Maybe Uncle Ray had the right idea, I need to make mommy fall in love with me again.  And you and I princess, we can be her soft place to land.”

“Pink Blossom.”

Tony’s head snapped to attention at the gentle words from the doorway.  Where Marah now stood.  He wondered how much she had heard but apparently she hadn’t heard much as she hesitantly entered the room.  The room she had barely glanced at since she was released from the hospital.  “What was that?”

“Pink Blossom.  The color we finally painted the walls.”  Marah skimmed her hand along one of the walls in question.  The wall where there was a mural painted complete with a forest and castle.

“You remember?” Hope flared to life in Tony’s chest.  If she could remember something as minute as paint color perhaps she was on the way back to them.

Marah shook her head.  “Not really.  But when I looked in here the words Pink Blossom popped into my head.”  She looked down at Tony holding their daughter against his chest and her heart fluttered.  Tony was such a good dad, and she was batting zero.  “May I try?”

Tony nearly jumped out of the seat as if it was on fire.  “Have a seat.”

Marah sat in the vacated rocker and rubbed her sweaty palms against her pants.  It was time.  Time to take a step in the right direction.  She tensed as Tony lowered Lanie into her arms but looking down at the sleeping baby she smiled.  “She looks like you,”

Tony laughed, “Funny, I think she looks like you.”

“Hmm.” Marah commented noncommittally. “I think she’s down for the count.”  Marah stood slowly and walked the baby over to her crib.  The large ornate crib that resembled a carriage.  She was certainly her father’s princess alright.

***

Getting into bed Marah sighed blissfully.  Today had been a long day.  She looked over as Tony exited the bathroom, his pajama pants lying low on his hips.  She felt the familiar stirring inside her, this time much lower than her heart.  She swallowed.  They may have made progress but she wasn’t ready.  Not for that.

Tony pulled the covers back and slid into bed.  After a moment’s hesitation he lifted his arm and Marah wasted no time tucking herself into his side.  “I almost forgot, when you came home you wanted to talk about something.”

Marah sighed contentedly.  She may not be ready to be intimate but this was nice.  Familiar.  And she had no desire to rehash the drama from today.  At finding out her mother had a child with a man Marah knew intimately.  Just…no. “It was nothing big.”  Placing her hand on his chest she felt the soft beating of his heart through her palm.  “Thank you.”

Tony peered down at her head resting against his shoulder.  “For what?”

“For giving me a perfect night. ”

“My pleasure.” And with a soft kiss against his wife’s lips they both fell into a deep sleep.

 

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Fourteen

Tony walked into the house and shut the door behind him.  It had been awhile since he had spent an entire day at Infierno and he had to admit to himself that he had missed it.  The camaraderie with Danny and Rafael, the business demands that broke up the monotonous parts of the day,  the constant stream of people coming and going….yeah he missed it.  Rafael had been staying at the Beacon while Marah and him figured things out, but he had to admit he missed the older man more than he cared to admit.

“Hello Mr. Santos.” Tristan walked down the stairs holding a bottle in one hand and a blanket in the other, bare feet hardly making a sound on the soft carpet.  Her toes were painted a pale pink Tony noticed, than mentally slapped himself for noticing.  Refocusing he realized she was still talking, “I just fed and changed Lanie.  She just went down for a nap.”

Tony put his keys in the bowl on the side table, “Was she any trouble?”

Tristan laughed, “Not at all.  She’s a cutie, and loads easier than the patients I deal with at the hospital.”  She walked over to the couch and began gathering her things.

“I bet.”  Tony scratched his chin, his five o’clock shadow sounding like sandpaper, “I never did get around to asking how being a nanny will interfere with your job at Cedars.”

Tristan looked up from putting on her shoes, “I am used to having more than one job.  Besides, I mostly work weekends at Cedars.”

“well that’s good, I wouldn’t want us to interfere with your job.”

Standing, Tristan put her bag over his shoulder and headed towards the door.  Stopping in front of him she looked up and smiled coyly, “No worries, I never let much interfere with plans.”

***

After a quick stop at her apartment Tristan looked fresh and dressed for her date.  Walking into Towers she scanned the room until her eyes landed on just the man she was looking for.  Sitting at the bar with his back to her she took the time to run her nervous hands along her dress.  She couldn’t believe she was actually nervous about a man.  She was almost like a virgin on her first date, but it had been a long time since she actually indulged in a personal life.  For so long she had let Richard rule her life.

“But he’s not here now.” Tristan said to herself.  She slowly strutted across the restaurant and when she was just a few feet away Jonathan turned and saw her approach.  She noted the appreciation in his eyes and the sexy as sin smile that crept across his face.  A smile she gladly returned.

Jonathan stood when Tristan reached the bar, “Well hello gorgeous.” He leaned down and kissed her cheek sweetly, mentally patting himself on the back for not mauling her right there in the middle of the restaurant.

“Hello.” She looked him up and down appreciatively, “You clean up well.”

Jonathan gestured to his outfit dismissively, “This old thing?”  He gestured towards the Maître D’, “Shall we eat?”

Tristan linked her arm with his, “Ready when you are.”

***

Marah slammed the front door momentarily forgetting there was a baby in the house.  When she didn’t hear a cry she let out the breath she was holding.  She threw her keys on the side table and called out, “Tony?  I really need to talk to you.”

And surprisingly she did.  She couldn’t believe she had another brother that no one told her about.  A younger brother fathered by a man she had actually had feelings for.  He was the first guy she felt free to be herself around after Tony and her crashed and burned for the hundredth time!   Just thinking about it made her want to retch, and it had made the day drag on endlessly.

Her mother and her had spent the majority of the day on pins and needles, any of the easiness in their relationship replaced by awkward silence.  But just as surprising was that she wanted to talk to Tony about it, to share her feelings.  She wasn’t a psychiatrist but she would consider that a break through.

“Marah you home?”

Marah heard Tony’s voice coming from the open kitchen door.  Heading that way she stopped in her tracks when she saw the candles burning, the table set for two.  “Did you make dinner?”

Tony came out of the kitchen carrying a bottle of wine in one hand and a large pizza box in the other.  “Sadly no.  I couldn’t boil water on my best day.  But I figured your return to work deserved some celebration so I got your favorite.”

Marah’s mouth practically watered from the aroma coming from that cardboard box.  Yummy melted cheese and…”You got pepperoni?”

Tony scoffed as he placed the box on the table, “But of course! ”  He came around to the other side of the table and pulled out her chair, “Now won’t you come dine with me Mrs. Santos?”

“This is sweet Tony, “Marah sat while Tony pushed her chair in like a gentleman.

Returning to the other side of the table Tony sat and began pouring the wine, “So you said you wanted to talk to me about something.”

Taking a sip Marah looked at her husband, at all the effort he had gone through today to make her day a bit brighter.  The flowers, the pepperoni pizza….she didn’t want to ruin it asking questions about her messed up family.  “Yeah but it will keep.  How was your day today?”

***

“So why Tristan?  I always thought that was a boy’s name which obviously you are not.”

“Are you sure about that?”  When Jonathan paused in cutting his steak Tristan laughed as she sipped her wine, “Just kidding.  Yes Tristan is typically a boy’s name.  It actually means “loud one” and my mom said I screamed so much when I was born that the name fit.”  Placing her wineglass on the table Tristan began cutting into her chicken, tonight’s date had been going well.  “So tell me, what do you do?”

Jonathan finished chewing his bite of steak before answering, “I am a foreman at my stepfather’s construction company.  Working alongside my half brothers can sometimes be a pain.  Hell they can be a gigantic pain in the ass.  But for a long time I was an outsider, I actually feel like a member of the family.”  He cleared his throat nervously.  He never revealed that much about himself to, well, anyone really.  Safer to change the subject, “You said you were a nurse at Cedars.  Do you like it?”

“I love it actually.  I can honestly say not two days are the same, there is always something new.  And I recently started a part-time side job as a nanny for the Santos family.”

Jonathan’s ears nearly perked up in interest, “Really?  Marah Santos is my sister.”

“Really?  Small world.” Tristan brought her wineglass to her lips and took a long sip.

***

“You should have seen her Bud, she was horrified.”

Josh looked up from checking Collin’s homework.  Not that second graders got much but he thought it best to be involved as much as possible. “Well Reva you had a child with her ex-boyfriend, fling, whatever he was to her.  I am sure she was just shocked.”

Reva supposed that was true but Josh hadn’t seen the look on her face.  It was enough to make her cringe, even hours later. “She didn’t even react that strongly when she found out the first time.”

Josh leaned back on the couch and motioned for Reva to join him.  When she was seated comfortably by his side he curled his arm around her and held her close, “Like I said, she was probably in shock.  She has lost so much then to have a sudden sibling foisted in her life was just unexpected.  She’ll come around.  Plus who could resist that little guy?” Josh motioned with his other arm at the boy playing with Legos on the floor.

Reva hoped Josh was right.

***

“So continuing tonight with your favorite things why don’t we go watch your favorite movie.” Tony stood and collected the plates, “I will clean this up and meet you in the living room.”

Marah walked over to the large television mounted on the wall, and at the large array of movies in the cabinet underneath.  “Um Tony, what is is my favorite movie these days?”

Tony entered the room and smiled sheepishly, “Sorry I forgot.  Your favorite movie is the Notebook.”  He walked over to the cabinet and picked up the all too familiar DVD, “As many times as I have sat through this one I could almost recite it line by line.”

He put the movie into the DVD player and pressed play, “I am just going to check on Lanie.  Don’t get too cozy without me.”

***

An hour later Tony nearly jumped when he felt Marah move hesitantly into his side.  He slowly lifted his arm in invitation, an invitation she responded too by curling into his side just like she used too.  Like she couldn’t stand to be apart from him for too long.  Tony sighed softly as he curled his arm around her.  And for the first time in weeks he felt almost completely happy.